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Friday, September 18, 2009

New Retreat Centre in Holland: first resident moves to Metta Vihara!

There's great news just in from the FWBO's Dutch and Belgian Sanghas, where for more than 20 years they’ve been hiring accommodation to hold retreats.  Parina, their newly-ordained project manager, writes to say -

“We've finally signed a contract to start building an FWBO retreat Centre here in The Low Countries. Our Chairwoman Karin van Kesteren signed the contract on Friday morning 4th of September on behalf of our charity Metta Vihara. And in the afternoon, Akasasuri opened the door of our future retreat place!

“It's an old pig farm and we will have to demolish the barns first before we can start the building work in spring 2010. We hope to open the doors of our centre at the end of 2010.

“In the meantime, there’s more work to be done, and more money to be raised - but our spirits are up! Both our Sanghas are very supportive of the project and willing to help in all kinds of ways. In fact, the network of friendship and interconnectedness just grows and glows.

“Thank you to all who've supported and encouraged us”.

Metta Vihara’s new address is Hengstdijkse Kerkstraat 36; on the outskirts of a small village near the sea and well-placed for all the local Sanghas, being more or less midway between Gent, Antwerp, and Rotterdam, south of Amsterdam.

There’s lots more about what’s going on there on their (Dutch) website In fact, we can’t resist copying some if here, translated courtesy of Google Translate. Apologies for any inaccuracies! They say -

“On September 4 we had the keys of the future retreat centre and then we immediately got to work with cleaning and painting of the house. The next step is to move all the stuff from Bilthoven to Hengstdijk (September 12) and then in October following the demolition of the old barns. If everything goes to plan we will start the spring with the new construction.

“Meanwhile, we continue to the final design for the retreat centre, and the building permit application. 

"For the future, sustainability is a topic of conversation: the care for the earth is dear to our hearts and we explore all possibilities that exist for sustainable building and focus.

“Yours, Dhammaketu, Karin van Kesteren, Akasasuri, Manigarbha”.

Meanwhile their fundraising goes on, and they’d like to draw attention to one thing especially - the Urgyen Sangharakshita tulip bulbs. They say (also in translation) -

“BUY THEM NOW!!! And help the fundraising campaign of € 80,000 together for the establishment of the brand new retreat centre. This unique tulip was named after Urgyen Sangharakshita, the founder of the Friends of Western Buddhist Order, which Metta Vihara is part of.

"You can get 15 bulbs for € 10 and 7 bulbs for € 5. The bulbs can be planted from October to December on balconies or in the garden and bloom in the spring. Click here for photos and ordering."

The photos show Metta Vihara's latest poster,  the contract-signing ceremony, and an architect’s impression of the new retreat centre building.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Belgium celebrates mitra ceremony on the International Urban Retreat - all invited!

Arthakusalin writes from Belgium to say -

"This is to inform you that on the evening of Thursday 25th, during the FWBO International Urban Retreat at the Ghent Buddhist Centre, there will be a mitra ceremony.

"Steven Heyde will become a mitra that evening, the ceremony will be led by the two Urban Retreat leaders Upekshadaka and Arthakusalin.

"We thought it would be a great moment for Steven to have his ceremony in this wider, international context with so many people attending the retreat all over the world...

"all my best wishes, Arthakusalin

If you're reading this - why not send them a message of support - just email the Centre!

The photograph shows the Order Members from the Ghent Centre.

Click here for more on the International Urban Retreat: happening this week!

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Buddhist Chants CD launched by Ghent Centre

Jan Deckers from the FWBO's Gent centre in Belgium writes with news of a new CD of Buddhist chants, available to FWBO members worldwide.  He says -

"We have made a wonderful CD and a booklet of Buddhist chants, sung by Arthamitra. We would like to offer it to members of the Sangha world-wide.

"For us, chanting on retreat has become a tradition in the FWBO of the Low Countries. We choose a sutra as the theme for a retreat.

"Arthamitra, a professional opera singer, teaches the participants how to pronounce and chant the words (either traditional or his own compositions). Throughout the retreat we chant the sutra twice or three times a day, before or after a meditation or as part of a puja. This strongly supports our meditation, reflection and study. Each time the chanting gets a bit more beautiful, we open our minds further for the message of the Dharma and get closer to one another.

"The profits will go to Metta Vihara, for the acquisition and setting up of a retreat Centre for Belgium and Holland. We have 500 CDs and all costs so far have been sponsored - once we sell all those we therefore make a net benefit of € 5000 for Metta Vihara.

You can find ordering and background information on our website. On it you can also listen to a beautiful singing of the Dhammapalam Gatha, watch a movie and download a small poster and leaflet. The address is -

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Centre opening in Ghent, Belgium

Upekshadaka, an Order Member from the FWBO's centre in Ghent, Belgium has written to say -

“On March 21st the Ghent Buddhist Centre is officially opening its new centre.

At the beginning of last year it became clear that we had to move out of the old centre because it was getting too small (well, there were just more and more people coming - the centre was just as big as it always had been!) We found a new place to rent close to the old one and in November 2008 started renovating it.

“Six months of hard work by our sangha have transformed what used to be a greasy old restaurant into a nearly finished wonderful new Buddhist Centre. have a look at the pictures and judge for yourselves!

“On Saturday March 21st we're celebrating the hard work and the hard workers and the big change this involves for the Ghent sangha. Everyone is invited to join us in this celebration. This is the programme:

11.00 - opening ceremony & meditation
14.00 - 17.00 - everyone is welcome for a visit and some tea and cake (which will be abundantly present, as is the habit for flemish people).

“Our new address is: Oudescheldestraat 14, Gent, Belgium (

“Hope to see you there on the 21st or some other time!”


Monday, March 02, 2009

A retreat centre for the Low Countries

The new retreat centre is the building on the left with the church of the small village of Hengstdijk (521 inhabitants) in the distanceAkasasuri sends us this report from Holland -

“For over twenty years FWBO retreats have been held in The Netherlands. They were started by Vajragita in the eighties and later also in Belgium by Dhammaketu.

"Over the last four years we’ve held about twenty retreats a year, from a weekend to a fortnight, and most of them are reasonably booked up (about 20 -30 people). We hire three different locations ( a monastery and a youth hostel in Holland, and a monastery in Belgium) for the retreats, every time we have to create the retreat environment from scratch. We have been a ‘virtual retreat centre’. Our charity is called Metta Vihara – please do have a look  As the site is in Dutch, English speakers may like to go straight to "nieuw retraitecentrum" and then to "foto's".

“But now I'm very happy to say it looks like we’re reaching the end of transporting cushions, mats, Buddha images, food, etc!!!

“After 4 years of property search in a densely populated country like The Netherlands we’ve finally found a suitable place in the South of Holland (not far from the Belgium border).

“In the photograph it’s the building on the left with in the distance the church of the small village Hengstdijk (521 inhabitants).

“The Netherlands being what it is, there are LOTS of regulations to satisfy before we can finally say we’ve done it.

signing of the contract. from left to right: Karin van Kesteren, Manigarbha, Akasasuri, Hein Gietema (all trustees of Metta Vihara, including Dhammaketu from Belgium who could not be present)“Although we’ve bought the property, it won’t be until the 1st of June that we’ll know whether or not we can renovate the farm into a retreat centre – and even then we’ll only be 90% sure. By January 2010 we’ll know for definite. At present the buildings include a set of pigstables, and as part of the work we will have to take them all down. In their place a purpose-built retreat centre will appear, designed by Peter Van Assche who is a Mitra.

“At the earliest we hope to open our doors in autumn/winter 2010!!!

“For the Dharma to take hold in a country takes a very long time, like holding a lotus flower next to a boulder and hoping it will take root. So waiting for another 1 ½ years should not be too difficult even though we are very very keen. Manigarbha and I will be so glad once we’ve done the last van run for our virtual retreat centre and settle into our own place.

“I’d like to use this opportunity to thank people in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK who have encouraged, supported and helped us financially.

“We are truly all interconnected. Akasasuri”

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

An interview with Sangharakshita

Photograph of Sangharakshita taken by Belgian photographer Diego FranssensFor Saturday's 'people' slot on FWBO News we are happy to feature Sangharakshita once again, and specifically an interview with him on the the subject of 'mindfulness.

As mentioned on FWBO News in November, last year Sangharakshita had an interview published in the Dutch Buddhist magazine ‘Vorm en Leegte’.

This was part of an issue of the magazine devoted to mindfulness, and was conducted by Dorine Esser, a mitra from Antwerp, in Belgium.

The interview is now available in English on the Features section of FWBO News. Click here to read it...

Some of what Sangharakshita says has been translated from English to Dutch and back again - please bear this in mind when reading it! It covers a wide range of topics – from the importance of mindfulness to our participation in a planet-wide ‘higher evolution’ – to the value of reading the Pali scriptures and the joy to be derived from classical music and art.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

BoeddhaNatuur releases programme for 2009

The cover image of the BoeddhaNatuur program for 2009

Mokshagandhi, a Dharmacharini living in Amsterdam, has sent us the 2009 program for the FWBO's BoeddhaNatuur project - BoeddhaNatuur being the Dutch Sangha's version of Buddhafield, running camping retreats in the Dutch or Belgian countryside.

If the retreats are anything like as beautiful as the programme, they should be a treat - though long-standing readers of FWBO News may remember their retreats in 2007 suffered from the water and wind elements!

Their website is or you can contact them by email at

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Friday, October 17, 2008

New Centre for the FWBO in Ghent, Belgium

The five members of the Order living in GhentFor over ten years now there has been an FWBO presence in the old city of Gent, in Belgium. Their sangha has slowly grown from just one – Dhammaketu – to the present chapter of five Order Members and many mitras and friends, and in August they celebrated their first ordination on Belgian soil.

Their existing centre, however, has not grown – in fact they have outgrown it! Now, happily, they are moving to new, much larger premises, and this month members of the Gent sangha are hard at work in their new place. They are doing a lot of the building work themselves and you can follow their progress (in Dutch) on their new centre blog. Along with the building work they are performing dedication rituals and sangha events; not reading Dutch, FWBO News can only guess at the meaning, but a flavour can be guessed from a rather quirky translation provided by the Yahoo Babelfish service –

“The normal backstage sounds of a yard become here in the old streetstreet street in default gelaten: no droning radio barge, none empty bierflesjes, none whistling and grapjesmakende men in upper part of the body bares.
Only the harmonious singing of Peggy's descant, the gentle gone and sounds of verfrol-en brush, the fine aromas of green - and camomile tea and men and women who train themselves in honest, pleasant and well-advised speech.
Lively I took farewell of the sanghagenoten but at the buitenstappen could not I it let my tongue stick out to the other side. My lively poll kept now however score: the sun seemed, gentle roar blew by the Ghent streets…”

We hope to bring a new report (in English!) when the centre opens. You can find details of their classes here, along with links to the other FWBO centres and groups in Holland and the Low Countries.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ordination in Belgium

The Three Jewels of Buddhism, displayed on the Kesa received by members of the Western Buddhist Order on their ordinationFWBO News is happy to report that on Sunday August 24th Bart Van den Berghe from the FWBO's centre in Ghent, Belgium had his Public Ordination.  This was the first Western Buddhist Order ordination in Belgium and an occasion for great rejoicing. 

He joins Dhammaketu, Arthakusalin, and Tarini in the "Vrienden van de Westerse Boeddhistische Orde", or VWBO (as the FWBO are known in Belgium).

He became UPEKSHADAKA, meaning 'daka possessed with equanimity'.
His private preceptor is Ksantivadin and his public preceptor is

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